Sunday, September 04, 2016

Presenting CWWN v48 - Messages for Building Up New Believers (1)

kw: book summaries, watchman nee, christian ministry

Several months ago the small group meeting in our home began using Watchman Nee's "Messages for Building Up New Believers", which comprise volumes 48, 49 and 50 of The Collected Works of Watchman Nee. Now that we have used the first seventeen lessons, I thought it good to present volume 48 now, out of the sequence I have been following, because these things are fresh in my mind.

The first of these three volumes contains the first seventeen lessons, with the following titles:

  • Baptism
  • Terminating the Past
  • Consecration
  • Confession With the Mouth
  • Separation From the World
  • Joining the Church
  • The Laying on of Hands
  • Abolishing All Distinctions
  • Reading the Bible
  • Prayer
  • Early Rising
  • Meeting
  • Various Kinds of Meetings
  • The Lord's Day
  • Hymn Singing
  • Praising
  • Bread-Breaking

These are preceded by the transcript of Nee's sharing to his co-workers in July, 1950, regarding the meetings for new believers. He strongly believed the churches need to provide thorough instruction to new believers, based on what Jesus said in Matthew 18:3, "Unless you turn and become like little children, you shall by no means enter into the kingdom of the heavens." It is best for a new Christian to assume that everything he or she has done for the past twenty, thirty, forty years or more is totally contrary to God's ways. Thus, all old ways must be dropped and new ways learned. We cannot simply add Jesus to our bag of tricks, as though all we need is a little reformation. When Jesus comes in, the whole bag must be discarded.

In my experience, the lack of specific instruction for new believers will, in a generation, lead to a church composed almost entirely of soulish and fleshly persons, who believe the occasional flash of actual spiritual joy or insight to be a special blessing from God. This was my condition before I came this way. I was soon disabused of that notion, when I realized that, as I said to myself, "Living in spirit is what these people do all day!" My former "golden moments" were spiritual pocket change, analogous to the silver that was despised in the days of Solomon because all the vessels were gold.

I can testify that these lessons are quite challenging. Firstly, they average fourteen pages in length. There is too much material to cover thoroughly in a one-hour meeting. Beginning with Lesson 18 in the second volume (v49 of CWWN), we plan to spend two meetings on each lesson. As one brother remarked in a footnote to an earlier, somewhat abridged translation published by CFP in 1972, "There are quite a number of 'first things' that Brother Nee wished new believers to learn!". In churches that faithfully follow the pattern he laid out, new believers who miss one of the lessons can expect a visit from an elder or two who are prepared to present the lesson personally.

Watchman Nee's particular approach is evident throughout: Our techniques and abilities hardly matter at all; what matters is the source of the work, that is the Holy Spirit of God. Brother Nee sometimes also comes at you from the side, as in "Joining the Church", in which he soon tells us that the true church is one you cannot join. A believer is BORN into the house of God, and we can no more "join" God's house than we "joined" the household of our parents! I remember my joy upon reading, with newly-opened eyes, in 1 Peter 1:3, that God has "begotten us again". My understanding that Jesus is the "only begotten of the Father" was outdated! It referred only to the human life of Jesus, from his birth until he was resurrected. In that same resurrection, we also have become begotten sons and daughters of God. The lesson continues by showing that our life in God is a corporate life. We need fellow believers and even companions in the pursuit of Christ to make adequate headway against the opposition of Satan and the world. We are warned in the letter to the Hebrews, "…not abandoning our own assembling together…" (10:25).

Watchman Nee stresses that it is this life of God in us that must grow and become the source of all that we do. Thus these lessons are guidelines for what to expect from the divine life within us, rather than lists of rules to follow.

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